FOTF Revisited: “I don’t need banknote fame” - my interview with Dana Alexander / by J McDermott

I’ve been enjoying my time revisiting Females Of The Fringe interviews. I spent a month at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013, photographing and asking comedians about their shows and gender in comedy.

As the £5 note was about to change in the UK, causing nationwide controversy, with the only commemorated woman being replaced by a man (Elizabeth Fry was being usurped by Winston Churchill), I was throwing in a final question to all of my interviewees: ‘Would you like to be on a banknote?’. When I posed this to Dana Alexander, I think I got the most amusing and perplexed response, it was left field enough as it was, but coupled with Dana being Canadian, it made the question all the more bewildering.

Dana Alexander is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe with her fifth solo hour Dana Alexander: The Milk Is Not Free, But Sometimes It Is On Sale this year. She also hosts Comedians Of The World Podcast.

Her 2013 show was Is This Really Happening?
You can read the interview from Females Of The Fringe with Dana here.
And the book is available to buy in my online shop.

JM: Can you tell me a little bit about your show this year?

DA: The show looks back through the journey of my life through the 80s and the 90s and today and I just kind of break it down and see what was going down in history in those times.

JM: And how would you describe your comedic style in general?

DA: Hmm, I don't know that I'm the person to answer that question, it's hard to have that perspective from within.

JM: What sort of comedy then do you tend to like, what do you find funny?

DA: I never knew that comedy had kinds. I think I probably like it all. There's so much cross-over now with styles and things like that. It's almost impossible to say what kind of comedy you like, I like things that make me laugh.

JM: How long have you been doing comedy for?

DA: Thirteen years.

JM: How do you find Fringe audiences compared to circuit audiences?

DA: They're a little bit more ready for a narrative. I don't know, you take a few more chances, do a few more things that you can't necessarily do in your stand up set, that sort of thing.

JM: Do you ever feel audiences or promoters are treating you differently because of your gender?

DA: Well I can't tell you that, because I've never had a penis, so I have nothing to compare it to. I mean you do see little boys' clubs and that form, but I'm not short on work so I could never say that being a female has held me back.

JM: Is there any incident or heckle that has prominently stuck out in your mind relating to your gender?

DA: You get heckles for all kinds of things. I mean, you always get the same thing over and over again, it's always, watcha ma call it, “Oh, you're funny for a girl”, but I mean, come on, we've heard this nine billion times, who cares.

JM: Do you think it's quite strange that audiences do even heckle?

DA: Life is a long heckle. I don't know how it would change in the club. Especially when you've given them as much booze as you do, you know. It's not strange to me, it seems perfectly normal. A lot of comics engage their audiences, and once you've engaged them they feel there's a bit of a dialogue there. Or a lot of guys just want to mess you up for fun. It's just like anything else, you know how it goes.

JM: So one last question that I've been asking because there's been lots of media controversy about banknotes recently on Twitter. I wondered if you would like to be on a banknote one day.

DA: What do you mean if I want to be on a banknote?

JM: Like your image on a banknote?

DA: It's never occurred to me. Would I ever want my image on a banknote? For what? I'd rather be on a crossword or on Sesame Street. I don't need banknote fame, because then you get to see yourself age, you get some old money and all of sudden you're eighty-five and then you get a bill from 19-, from when you were like thirty years old shows up and you're like, “oh, I used to be so beautiful”. I feel bad for the Queen, can you imagine?

JM: That's true. Unlike the Queen though, I think other people only get on them once they've passed away anyway, so it would just be like living on through a banknote, that doesn't really appeal to you?

DA: It's never occurred to me, never mind appealed to me. A banknote? Do you want to be on a banknote?

JM: Not particularly.

DA: I want to be on a crossword.

JM: Ok. Fantastic. It's a bit of a left field question just to see what people say.

DA: Yeah! Do I want to be on a banknote?

JM: You're still thinking about it!

DA: I think I'm going to need to do something more substantial, then maybe revisit that question. Maybe build a home for orphans or fight a war.

JM: Well if you ever want to return to it and let me know.

DA: I don't know girl. Do I want to be on a banknote? Girl, I have no idea, that's my answer.